Posts Tagged 'guests'

Picnic in style at Royal Ascot

Whilst the last few days have seen us enjoying some early summer warmth and sunshine, our thoughts will be turning to the Season and the annual Royal Ascot Meeting in June.

For those who will arrive at the Racecourse by car and want to follow the traditions of this world famous fixture, a picnic, preferably in Number 1 car park, is a must!  But what to eat, let alone what to wear?

There is something very special about a picnic, although in this country the weather can put a serious dampener on the spirits.  Not many of us are lucky enough to have a Butler who will lay everything out, prepared by Cook in advance, but there is much one can do to tailor this to location, guests and budget.

I always advocate keeping it stylish but simple, and they key is always good organisation.  Prepare as much as possible in advance and look for the varied accessories to make the day – both stylish and practical.  John Lewis have some fabulous ideas, as do The White Company and Ikea.

The great thing about a picnic is the informality they impart.  Picnics were the first ‘rule-free’ meals remembered by generations of children.  A relief from constraint, but not entirely free from the essentials of table manners.

Whatever your budget, make sure your guests have plenty to eat and drink, but ensure what you have on offer is easy to eat too.  The last thing one wants to worry about with a pretty silk dress and floaty hat is drips of mayonnaise or squirting peach juice!

A rather nice summer menu could comprise of seasonal asparagus (just coming to the end but should still be nice in mid June) steamed and served at room temperature with a softly boiled shelled egg (quails eggs work too but are a nuisance to shell), snipped garden chives and a drizzle of vinaigrette, with shavings of good English cheese such as Caerphilly or Cheshire.  Serve with good unsalted butter and fabulous bread and you have a wonderful first course. An alternative might be roasted peaches or nectarines (easy to do in the oven with a little water and a dot of butter and sugar), served with slices of top quality prosciutto and slivers of creamy goats cheese.

For main course, you cannot beat a rare cold fillet of beef with horseradish mayonnaise, and a new potato red onion and flat leafed parsley salad, served with rocket leaves, pea shoots and seasonal lettuce.  For the vegetarian, perhaps a good frittata.

Try your hand at a vanilla pannacotta made with greek yoghurt, served with the freshest of English strawberries in individual moulds, or perhaps a timeless favourite, a flourless rich chocolate cake with crème fraiche or clotted cream.  All easy to transport, and serve – essential if you do not have a bank of staff to help you!

Ensure some lovely crisp napkins, tablecloths and comfortable cushions on folding chairs and tables, with perhaps a Bellini made with fresh peach puree and a good Prosecco to set the scene and you have the makings of a perfect day!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

Maybe This Time: Facebook Invitations

All things considered, Facebook is a wonderful innovation. Like it or loathe it, it will certainly be around for quite some time yet. It has set itself up as a social hub: we can see photos of ourselves and our friends, we can email our friends, we can play games with them, we can instant-message them, we can send them gifts (although if any friend of mine ever sent an electronic gift – or e-card, for that matter – I’d strike them out of my address book), and we can organise events through Facebook. It’s this last one that can easily rile me.

For the benefit of non-Facebook users, let me quickly explain what exactly happens. Any user can invite friends to an event; on the event page they can list the time, place, date, and any other instructions for guests. Invited guests will see the invitation to said event when they log into their Facebook profile. Guests are then given three options as to how they wish to reply: Attending, Not Attending, or Maybe Attending. It is this last one that drives me mad.

I used to send out nice stiff white card invitations to my guests for my parties, but due to the cost of doing them for every party and the fact that a majority of modern guests wouldn’t know what on earth to do with such an invitation, I decided to concede and use Facebook to invite people to my events. To be fair, it works a treat. But when I have guests that respond that they ‘maybe attending’ I hit the roof. In my opinion, you are either attending or you are not. Called me old fashioned but when I am invited to an event I get out my diary, see if I am doing anything already on that date and if I am not, then I respond saying I can do; if I am busy, I respond saying I unfortunately cannot. This conditional clause of ‘maybe’ seems to be designed for the socially far-too-busy. Some of my guests (who have subsequently been struck off my party guest-list) put ‘maybe’ because they are clearly thinking ‘well, I shall go if I don’t have anything else better to do that night’, which is just rude.

People should make the effort, and decide whether they are going or not instead of floundering around in this new middle ground. If a host were going to the effort of putting on a party (probably with food and drink) for guests then said host would quite like to know for how many people they are catering.

You can see this clearly winds me up, and I do wish Facebook would remove the function. It is intrinsically bad mannered.

I am off for a lie down now.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner


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